My name is Carrie Newlands.

I'm a consultant oral and maxillofacial surgeon

from the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford.

Mouth cancer is a cancer which affects the skin lining the inside of the mouth.

Most mouth cancers are caused by smoking, although not always.

If you drink alcohol as well as smoke,

then your risks of getting mouth cancer substantially increase.

We know that it's very important

for anybody with an abnormal area in their mouth to seek help early

because the survival rate goes up significantly

if you catch it when the cancer is very tiny

and particularly before it's had a chance to spread.

Most mouth cancers present as an ulcer or a rough patch or a lump,

and that's commonly on the tongue or underneath the tongue,

although it can affect other areas of the skin inside the mouth.

Occasionally mouth cancer can show up in other ways,

such as with a lump in the neck, which is where a gland has become swollen.

If that is a concern, you should be sent to see a maxillofacial surgeon.

That appointment should happen within two weeks

of your dentist or doctor referring you.

If you're diagnosed with mouth cancer,

it's very important to be looked after by a group of people

who specialise in cancers of the mouth

and other cancers which are called head and neck cancers.

These will be a group of doctors and nurses and therapists

who are called a multidisciplinary team.

They'll be used to working with each other.

They will work with you to determine the best way to treat your cancer.

Mouth cancer can be treated in several ways.

It is commonly treated by surgery,

but some people are more suitable to have radiotherapy

and chemotherapy is sometimes used in certain circumstances.

Your team will make sure that you get the best treatment

related to what evidence there is

in terms of the particular cancer that you have

and in terms of other factors such as your general state of health.

Most mouth cancer operations are usually quite significant operations

involving spending around a day in theatre

and usually at least a week in hospital afterwards to recover.

The operation in its simplest explanation

involves the removal of the cancer.

It is very frequent for you to have the neck glands removed at the same time.

The mouth cancer is usually removed from inside the mouth

but the neck glands are removed through an operation through the neck

which then involves having a scar on the neck afterwards.

Because it's important to remove a cancer

with a cuff of normal tissue around it,

that usually leaves an area in the mouth

where some of the skin and/or tongue is missing,

and it's common these days to have that area reconstructed.

A key member of your multidisciplinary team

will be a speech and language therapist

who will be able to talk to you beforehand

about how your particular surgery

is likely to affect the way you can swallow and speak afterwards.

All those things will be dealt with so that you have some idea what to expect.

But what to expect will differ in every one individual case.

The most important thing you can do if you have mouth cancer

is to stop smoking.

That will make you in a better position to go through your treatment

and it will also decrease your chances of getting other smoking-related cancers

and other illnesses at a later stage.

It's also important to make sure that you have a very good diet

that includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.

You will find it really helpful

to take a loved one or a friend with you to your clinic appointments,

partly for support but also to be able to remember answers to questions

that you may not be able to recall what was said to you.

It's useful to take a list of questions and be prepared to write things down

because that helps you to remember what was said once you've gone home.

Whichever way you've been treated,

you'll normally be kept under review by your team, usually for five years.

That will be quite frequently to begin with

but then less often as time goes on.

But it's important for you to know how to get in touch with your team

if anything happens in between your appointments that causes you concern.

What to expect afterwards will relate to how your cancer has been treated.

The team looking after you should give you some idea

as to how long your treatment will take, how long you'll need to be in hospital

and how long it will take for you to recover and get back to a normal life.